Rangers' Comeback Campaign Shows No Quit in New York

A marketing mantra from leaner times finally fits a team in the NHL Eastern Conference Finals

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Hockey marketing can be like a new pair of skates or a fresh set of goalie pads: It requires time and effort to break in.

Back in pre-pandemic 2019, the New York Rangers were coming off two straight losing seasons without a National Hockey League playoff appearance. Their future Hall of Fame goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist, faced declining health and playing time. That summer, the Rangers marketing team was trying to figure out how to get more social media followers despite the on-ice results.

But late in the 2019-20 season, hockey became the least of their potential fans’ concerns. By April 2020, during what’s typically the beginning of the NHL playoffs, New York City was seeing more than 800 deaths a week from Covid-19. Sports were shut down, but so were many businesses throughout the metro area. 

While the NHL would eventually hold its delayed, reconfigured playoffs in late summer (with the Rangers being swept out in three games), the world as a whole was more focused on survival than a comeback.

But the Rangers organization saw its surrounding city respond and rebuild. As vaccines became available, businesses reopened, people slowly reemerged, and the lights came back on Broadway. That durability and toughness became a Rangers mantra: No Quit in New York.

“While not everyone understands or closely follows hockey, they can relate to the city they call home,” said Adam Laitsas, svp of marketing at MSG Sports, the holding company that manages the Rangers. “We began to look more closely at the overlap in values, characteristics, etc. between our hockey club and NYC. Resilience was at the top of the list.”

A collage of New York Rangers No Quit in New York images
Sponsors including Delta and Chase have jumped aboard the Rangers’ No Quit in New York campaign as it goes increasingly public during the NHL playoffs.

The long comeback trail

The Rangers hosted their first game with spectators at Madison Square Garden in February 2021 before once again missing the playoffs. But the organization dusted itself off, fired its general manager, president and head coach, and brought in former team captain Chris Drury to lead its front office and put veteran coach Gerard Gallant behind the glass.

The average age of a New York Rangers player still hovers around 26, as it did in 2019, but then-rookie Igor ​​Shesterkin has since emerged as the Rangers’ goaltender of the future. Its “Kid Line” of Alexis Lafreniére, Kaapo Kakko and Filip Chytil doesn’t have a player older than 22. 

The Rangers launched a campaign around the tagline “No Quit in New York” back in November. They used the slogan on television broadcasts, in social media and around their home arena, Madison Square Garden. While it maintained that modest presence at first, fans took notice as the team kept winning games in which they’d trailed on the scoreboard. Of the 52 games the Rangers would eventually win during the 2021-22 season, 27 were comebacks.

As the Rangers moved toward the playoffs in April, the team’s sponsor brands began attaching themselves to “No Quit in New York.” Delta Air Lines put the slogan on souvenir towels. Chase attached it to buttons, coasters, signs and beer koozies at games as well as bar events and viewing parties in Central Park, Bryant Park and the West Village. Mattress Firm put it on T-shirts, while Bud Light trolled Carolina fans in its tweets.

The Rangers, in turn, spread some of the love to small businesses that survived the pandemic by adding them to their roster of No Quit in New York Businesses. Whether it’s a salon in Hamilton, New Jersey known for Rangers manicures or a shop in Bay Shore selling Long Island vacation gear, the businesses get a listing on the Rangers’ site during the postseason, a shout on social media and some Rangers signage for their stores. 

The next level

Once in the playoffs, the Rangers found themselves down three games to one in a series with the Pittsburgh Penguins before winning the last three games. In their second series against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Rangers fell behind three games to two before winning the final two games. 

That brought out giant No Quit in NY letters that the Rangers marketing team has placed throughout New York City, from Lower Manhattan’s South Street Seaport to Bryant Park, Central Park, Chelsea Market, JFK’s Delta Terminal, Moynihan Station and Madison Square Garden throughout the playoffs. It also inspired spots featuring Method Man, Chris Meloni, Rachel Brosnahan and Bobby Cannavale that played across digital platforms, in Madison Square Garden and on MSG networks.

New York celebrities from Stranger Things, Friday Night Lights and pandemic-era social media have picked it up on their own. Even the Rangers’ uptown neighbors in the Bronx co-opted it for themselves.

The Rangers took the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning—who’ve won the last two Stanley Cup Finals. When the Rangers dropped the third and fourth games of the series in Tampa, their counterparts in marketing didn’t seem fazed in the slightest. When a campaign’s worked all season and throughout the playoffs, why abandon it and throw off your whole game?

“No matter the opponent, score of the game, time left, etc. there was no quit in our hockey club,” said Kelsey Philpott, the Rangers’ senior director of marketing strategy. “Similarly, no matter what adversity seemed to confront New York, the city refused to give up.”